Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Japanese knotweed fed to elephants

Yesterday I gave a talk, Not Weeds but Resources, at Seedy Sunday in Brighton. I started by explaining that a weed is a plant of which we have forgotten its use, and then moved on to discuss chickweed, dandelion, elder and stinging nettle and some of their uses. At the end of the talk we briefly discussed some weeds which apparently have no uses. Someone suggested that Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was such a plant, but I was able to explain how its stems have been used as pea-shooters and whistles, and when young are sometimes eaten by children.
When I had finished a man came up and told me that he used to be a gardener at London Zoo, where they used to feed Japanese knotweed – but not too much of it – to the elephants. Very few of us can make use of this use, but should any elephant-keepers ever read this note …

Comment: ¬†Japanese knotweed is fed to elephants at Whipsnade Zoo [to where London Zoo’s elephants were moved when they decided not to keep them there]. ¬†They were feeding the elephants Japanese knotweed as a treat just once a week, as a means of controlling it [Kate Hayward, Witham, Essex, July 2016].

Image: naturalized, beside River Wye, Hereford, July 2018.

Updated 29 July 2018.

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